Small, Familiar Magics

I’ve been working on multiple writing projects at once, as has become my habit. The late Christopher Stasheff, who I was privileged to meet and talk with at a convention a few years ago, told me that he called it Voltaire’s Desk, this moving from one thing to another, then coming back around again.

For one thing, it keeps me from getting bogged down, and right now with me pushing the words as hard as I can, that’s essential. If I had the time to wander off for a day or three and digest until the story was ready to come out? But I don’t. I’m averaging 1200 words a day in August. Being able to dictate on my commute is helping that. So! I have multiple things that allow me to switch between them.

What it doesn’t allow for, this spoken method of creativity, is editing. That’s all got to be butt-in-chair fingers on keyboard time. So necessary! And here I am, avoiding it.

I sent the East Witch off to the tender cares of Beta Readers last week, and the initial responses have been encouraging. I have work to do, which I expected. I was amused to be told that parts of it read like David Drake after he’d been intensively researching a subject and then wrote it into a fiction tale. I’m not sure that was wholly intended as a compliment, but I will take it! I’m even now considering putting a bibliography as a note behind the book for those who would like to read some of the very obscure folklore and fairy tales I dug out to shape the book. Siberian forests aren’t the only bleak thing up there. The history of Siberia’s native peoples is even darker.

My editor, on her initial pass through the book, informs me I’m a clean writer. I sort of flinch, knowing that the next book will have been partly masticated and spit out by Dragon Naturally and it’s not going to be that clean! The next book finished will be Hatrack. I think. Maybe. The other book the First Reader and I are working on is a seekrit. Because we are toying with submitting that one to a traditional publisher. Whereupon we will pretend it doesn’t exist for something like two years, while we work on other projects.

I’ve been asked for sequels to Tanager – it’s up next on the roster. Possum Creek Massacre? Well, the immediate sequel is available now, as Child of Crows is published in Supernatural Streets. The next novel will be Bone Sigh, and I am shooting for early 2021 with that. If I can keep up the momentum I’ve got going. I’d also like to get out a sequel to Lab Gremlins, which I am thinking I may roll the sequelae of Violet Mouse into… Honestly, that short. It’s not supposed to have ‘what came next?’ because there are too many options. But the reviews are all good, and longing for more. So I will do my inadequate best there.

And of course, knowing my muse, there will be oddball projects that materialize and capture me. I can’t help it! I’m not scattered, I’m just built this way!

It’s the small, familiar magics of the days that keep us going. The coffee dark and bitter. The good morning kiss. The dog’s cold nose and pleading eyes. The whole wold, dark and gray, bright and sunshiny, different every time you step out the door. People, who are every one of them their own self-contained unique personality walking around and interacting with you. Surprises abound, and discovering them makes it all worth while.

When my children were born, I had no idea what to expect. It was delightful to learn that almost immediately this little person who couldn’t even hold her head up had a personality. Then, when two and three came along, I realized that they were each so different! Number four proved my hypothesis, that behind every face is a soul worth getting to know. You might not like that person (the ones who aren’t your own children), but they are nonetheless a human and not the same person as you are. I have found it fascinating, over the years, trying to comprehend motivations, reactions, and all the myriad ways we bounce off of one another and our surroundings.

I try to capture a little of this magic in my work. It’s worth catching, like lightning in a jar, and holding up to look at the beauty before you release it again. Even fireflies have lives to live, beyond our amusements.

11 thoughts on “Small, Familiar Magics

  1. A complete aside:
    What the heck was up with the Dragon nominations this year?
    When I got my ballot last week, didn’t see a whole lot that I wanted to vote for, but there was a metric buttload I wanted to vote against!

    I do not want to see the Dragon go the way of the Hugo and the Nebula.
    Entropy never sleeps.
    And weasels always weasel.

    1. Well, they have the money to blast out ‘vote for me!’ to huge amounts of people who will obligingly do just that. And then when the con was cancelled, Fandom was generally discombobulated. Really, though, is the same story as with the Hugos. It behooves a publisher to buy awards so they can sell books. Simple equation.

  2. Let me vote for the bibliography on East Witch! I love to see how other writers absorb and transmute sources, and I’m always interested in obscure folklore.

    As for the personalities of the little ones… I’ve long thought that parents of only children suffer unnecessary guilt because they wildly overestimate their power to warp the child’s tiny mind. Once you have to deal with two or more, it starts to become obvious how much is not under your control. Which can, in some ways, be a very comforting observation.

    1. As for the personalities of the little ones…


      So far, we have my sister in law’s daughter, a female version of my husband, my husband but moreso, me but as a middle child who is adorable and knows it, and two we’re not sure of yet but they DEFINITELY got the ornery, adorable, and odd sense of humor. The youngest may be me turned to 11, in which case have mercy on our souls.

  3. I can loop around with editing tasks too, but you do need at least one pass at high velocity and in one chunk to ensure that there aren’t major discrepancies far apart.

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